Ford exploring deployment of self-driving trucks for delivery services

With the explosion of interest in self-driving technology, carmakers are scrambling to corner market share.

As per a senior executive from the company, Ford Motor Co is considering to deploy self-driving vehicle technology in larger commercial vehicles and is working with multiple partners to deploy this strategy on autonomous vehicles on the road.

“We’ve been talking with different partners in different industries about potential applications for Ford’s first self-driving vehicle in 2021, including ride-sharing and delivery services,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification said in an interview.

Jim Hackett, who took over Ford as its Chief Executive in May, is leading a review of the automaker’s strategy.

Just like its peer Uber Technologies, Ford is already operating “on-demand” transit vehicles which it calls as a Chariot; it plans on eventually outfitting these with self-driving capability.

The move follows Tesla Inc and other commercial truck makers trying to develop self-driving trucks.

Significantly, while Tesla’s is gunning for long-haul self-driving trucks, Ford currently does not make Class 8, long-haul semi trucks; it however builds F-series trucks that are light and medium duty, as well as transit vans that are used to deliver goods to commercial customers.

Incidentally, on Tuesday, Ford announced that it has teamed up with Domino’s Pizza to test the delivery of meals to consumers in Michigan by self-driving vehicles.

Marakby stated, Ford is working with “many other companies” to develop self-driving hardware, while its Pittsburgh-based, Argo AI affiliate, is developing the “virtual driver” software.

He went on to add, Ford plans on doing much of the systems integration work, by itself.

Ford’s approach has been different from its rivals, who have announced plans to share the cost of engineering and self-driving software technology.

A recent example has been BMW partnering with Intel Corp, Delphi Automotive and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

“We’re developing the technology and the (customer) interfaces to go to market directly with our partners,” said Marakby. “We’re open to other arrangements in the future.”



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